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March 22, 2011

Termination by operation of law

Termination by operation of law
Bowman v Kerik, 271 AD2d 225

Section 30.1(e) of the Public Officers Law provides that a public office becomes vacant upon the conviction of the incumbent of a felony, or a crime involving a violation of the individual’s oath of office. The significance of this provision is that no pre-termination hearing that may otherwise be viewed as mandated by law such as the proceeding set out in Section 75 of the Civil Service Law or a Taylor Law disciplinary grievance procedure is required to effect the termination.

In Bowman, Section 30.1(e) was the basis for the court’s sustaining the termination of several New York City correction officers without a hearing. As the Appellate Division noted, Section 30.1(e) is a self-executing statute and no pretermination hearing was required.

Bowman and other correction officers had challenged their dismissal without notice and hearing, claiming they were entitled to such a due process hearing. The corrections officers pled guilty to an intent to evade any tax imposed under [an] income or earnings tax statute....*

The Appellate Division found that their public offices were vacated automatically on conviction by operation of law because of the misdemeanors to which they had pleaded guilty. As noted in Kelly v Levin, 440 NY2d 424, even if these individuals were given a due process hearing, the only penalty that could be imposed by an appointing authority or hearing officer was dismissal.

* For the purposes of 30(1)(e), a plea of guilty is the equivalent of a conviction.
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